Monday, October 4, 2010

Federal probe results in indictments, arrests of key Alabama political figures – UPDATE: Ron Sparks questions timing?

image Federal investigators are holding a 10:00 am news conference today, announcing that a Federal Grand Jury has handed down a basketload of indictments alleging corruption in connection with efforts to pass gambling legislation during the 2010 legislative session.

The probe began last Spring, and federal investigators began notifying potential targets of their status in July.

Arrests are underway today, statewide. has the story:

FBI agents swept across Alabama this morning arresting state lawmakers and lobbyists as part of a federal probe into efforts to pass gambling legislation last spring.

The biggest name arrested so far has been VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, who was arrested at his Montgomery home this morning. 

Also arrested today have been state senators Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Larry Means, D-Attalla, Harri Anne Smith, I -- Slocomb and Montgomery lobbyist Jerrod Massey.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins are holding a press conference at 10 am central time at Department of Justice headquarters in downtown Washington D.C., where details are expected about the public corruption investigation in Alabama.

Harri Anne Smith was apparently the first arrested.  FBI agents were visiting searching MacGregor’s home at about the same time (approximately 8:00 am CDT).  MacGregor was then arrested.

This is still breaking.  I’ll update as more comes in.

Update I: In response to reader email:  None of the Alabama gubernatorial, congressional or senatorial candidates are involved in this probe.  The probe focused only on attempts to influence voting in the state legislature.

Update II: The full DOJ press release is here.

Eleven have been charged:

  • Milton E. MacGregor (casino owner/gambling proponent)
  • Ronald E. Gilley (casino owner/gambling proponent)
  • Larry P. Means (State Senator, D-Attala)
  • James E. Preuitt (State Senator, R-Talladega)
  • Quinton T. Ross Jr. (State Senator, D-Montgomery)
  • Harri Anne H. Smith (State Senator, I-Slocomb)
  • Jarrod D. Massey (lobbyist)
  • Robert B. Geddie Jr. (lobbyist)
  • Thomas E. Coker (lobbyist)
  • Jarrell W. Walker, Jr. (lobbyist)
  • Joseph R. Crosby (lobbyist)

Update III: Statement emailed by Alabama GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard:

"The ongoing investigation and subsequent arrests should serve as a referendum on the culture of corruption that has been prevalent in Montgomery for far too long. It is our hope that today’s action by the Obama Justice Department will lead to a systematic change in the Alabama Legislature, and one that will put transparency back into the people’s government."

Irony of ironies that the Alabama GOP chair would pair the terms “culture of corruption” and “Obama Justice Department” in the same paragraph and not have one referring to the other.

Update IV: And in another jaw-dropping, WTF moment, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ron Sparks released the following statement:

“Anyone who loves democracy and freedom should be concerned with the timing of these indictments. Waiting to announce indictments after the election would have had no impact on the cause of justice. The timing of this, regardless of how you feel about it, is suspicious and must be questioned.”

Um, Mr. Sparks…  the Obama Justice Department obtained these indictments from the Grand Jury.  Surely, you aren’t suggesting that Bob Riley somehow controls Eric Holder, too?


UPDATE V: Governor Bob Riley’s office released the following statement:

“An independent federal investigation by the Obama Justice Department has resulted in indictments and arrests surrounding the corrupting influence organized gambling has on the Legislature.

"This is disappointing, but hardly surprising. For many months, Gov. Riley has warned Alabamians that organized gambling is a threat to our state because of its corrupting influence. That’s exactly why Governor Riley has consistently fought the illegal gambling interests."

UPDATE VI: Dr. Robert Bentley, GOP Candidate for Governor, releases his statement:

"Following the announcement today by The Justice Department we must now allow the justice system to take its course. I have been a champion for transparency in government. The indictments handed down today are an example of exactly what is wrong with Montgomery politics. As Governor, I will be a vigilant force against corruption of any kind, regardless of party affiliation. Today's announcement bruises Alabama's reputation. I believe maintaining a clean and open government are the only ways to prevent such things from happening again."